Tax and Regulate

Mass.: Governor Baker orders closure of adult-use cannabis businesses

Contact Gov. Baker and your state legislators and tell them cannabis businesses must be designated as essential!

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has ordered that all nonessential businesses cease operations until April 7. Medical cannabis dispensaries and package beverage stores have been designated as essential services, but adult-use cannabis businesses have not.

Please join with us in asking Gov. Baker to ensure that cannabis businesses are allowed to continue operating during the crisis. Click here to send a message to the governor to ask him to reconsider.

Please also send a message to your state legislators and urge them to push for adult-use cannabis businesses to be designated as essential services.

Every other legalization state where regulated sales have begun — Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington — is allowing adult-use cannabis businesses to continue operating, even as other businesses are closed under stay-at-home orders.

Many adults in Massachusetts rely on cannabis for their well being. Some are patients who are not registered for the medical cannabis program, and others depend on cannabis as an alternative to alcohol or other more dangerous substances. Shutting down adult-use cannabis businesses will also be crippling for businesses, especially economic empowerment applicants, and it will deprive state and local governments of tax revenue that could be used to mitigate the COVID-19 crisis.

After you send a message to Gov. Baker and email your state legislators, please share this message with your family and friends.

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Medical Marijuana

Protecting medical cannabis patients in Alaska as COVID-19 emerges

Encourage Gov. Dunleavy to maintain and extend good cannabis policies.

As governments today respond to COVID-19, it’s critical that medical patients maintain access to cannabis for medical use. This is particularly true in Alaska, and we are asking for your help.

Please join with us in asking Gov. Mike Dunleavy to ensure that cannabis businesses, which serve patients along with adult consumers, are included as essential businesses. Click here to send a message to the governor to thank him for keeping businesses open so far and to ask for his support on behalf of patients all around the state.

As of today, Washington, Oregon, Colorado, California, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Maryland, and Nevada, along with a long list of medical-only states, have declared that retail cannabis establishments are “essential services.” That designation helps ensure access even if there is a stay-at-home order. Alaska’s governor has not yet extended that protection to cannabis businesses, leaving patients and consumers vulnerable. Without a home delivery option, patients and consumers would simply be cut off if retail shops closed. That should not be acceptable, and the governor should hear that message. Help us get word to his office.

The flip side is for all of us in the cannabis movement to remember that in many ways, we are also stewards of health. Businesses should consider measures to help ensure the well-being of their patients and customers through social distancing and good business practices.

Some resources:

  • Our own letter to the governor is available here.
  • The Alaska Marijuana Industry Association’s great letter and recommendations for businesses is here.
  • A chart we put together that compares different state approaches in response to COVID-19 is here.
  • The link to get word to the Alaska governor’s office on this issue is here.

Please stay safe, and mind your health and the health of this community.

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Medical Marijuana

Safe access to cannabis in times of coronavirus

Urge governors of medical cannabis states to ensure access in times of social distancing.

In the past week or two, our lives have changed dramatically.

As we strive to “flatten the curve,” schools have shuttered their doors. Those workplaces that can switch to remote work, including MPP, have done so. Hundreds of thousands of workers are newly unemployed. Tens of thousands of Americans have been diagnosed with the virus, and healthcare professionals are making heroic sacrifices.

Our hearts go out to each of you for all you are going through as we come together to reduce the death toll.

As some states roll out “Safer at Home” policies, they are recognizing people still need access to essentials, including medicine. MPP and allied organizations are working to make sure they do not lose sight of the fact that millions of Americans depend on cannabis as part of their treatment regimens.

We are urging governors and legislative leaders in states with medical cannabis and legalization laws to ensure access in a way that keeps everyone as safe as possible.


You can sign our petition here to add your voice to the plea for safe access. 

Among the recommendations — which are similar to ones put out by our friends at Americans for Safe Access — are declaring cannabis businesses an essential service (keeping them open in case of a stay-at-home order), allowing delivery, allowing telemedicine, and relaxing bureaucratic requirements that could interfere with access.

We’ve also compiled a list of what measures states currently have in place for safe access in these uncertain times.

We wish you and your loved ones well. We’re all in this together.

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Tax and Regulate

Fix urgently needed for Bay State’s legalization law

Controversial host community agreements have compromised the program’s swift and equitable implementation — tell state legislators it’s time for the Cannabis Control Commission to review and regulate these agreements!

There are now more than 30 cannabis retail stores operating in Massachusetts, and the state recorded over $400 million in sales in 2019. These are the first retail stores serving adults in the northeast, and we know that this is only the beginning of what will become a robust market throughout the region.

Unfortunately, the rollout of the program has been frustrating for many Bay Staters, especially those who are trying to get businesses up and running. In particular, the requirement that applicants sign host community agreements (HCAs) with municipalities has created significant problems, especially for smaller businesses. HCAs detail benefits cannabis businesses must provide to a locality, such as fees and “voluntary” donations. They are typically negotiated between individual business applicants and the locality, rather than localities having generally applicable terms.

Massachusetts law already caps the amount of financial benefits HCAs may require, but the Cannabis Control Commission has not reviewed HCAs to ensure compliance. There have been many reports of HCAs exceeding the limits of the law. Fortunately, the legislature’s Cannabis Policy Committee has advanced a bill, S 1126/H 3536, that would clarify the rules for HCAs and give the Cannabis Control Commission express authority to regulate them.

Please contact your state legislators and urge them to support this urgently needed reform!

Then, please share this message with your family and friends.

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Tax and Regulate

U.S. House of Representatives passes SAFE Banking Act!

We have big news to share: Just now, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the SAFE Banking Act (H.R. 1595) in a 321-103 floor vote! Today’s vote was historic, as the SAFE Banking Act is the first standalone cannabis bill to ever receive a full vote in Congress.

This legislation would prevent federal financial regulators from punishing financial institutions that provide services to state-legal cannabis businesses. Currently, most banks are unwilling to work with the cannabis industry because they fear federal prosecution. A version of this legislation has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1200) and currently has 33 cosponsors.

As more states implement and expand cannabis-related programs, Congressional action is urgently needed to provide clear banking policies, which would reduce the illicit market, promote public health and safety, increase consumer safety standards, ensure broader patient access, help with business transparency and compliance, and reduce safety risks associated with running high-volume, cash-only businesses. 

It is also important to recognize that the SAFE Banking Act, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President, would strengthen efforts to increase the diversity of the cannabis industry. Many states that have legalized cannabis for adults have launched efforts to ensure that there are economic opportunities for communities of color that have been most severely impacted by marijuana prohibition. Access to capital remains an obstacle to this goal, and the SAFE Banking Act would help to address this problem.

MPP is proud to support this legislation, and we’d like to thank all of our allies who worked so hard to get this bill to a House floor vote. We’d also like to thank you, our supporters, for reaching out to your representatives on behalf of the SAFE Banking Act.

Onward to the Senate!

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Tax and Regulate

How the SAFE Banking Act Means Equity

The emerging cannabis industry — with $17 billion in sales this year — is currently troubled by a lack of racial diversity within its ranks. It is impossible to ignore the fact that members of the African American community and other racial minorities have paid a particularly high price in the war on cannabis. When the business community that follows legalization leaves behind people of color, there is cause for concern. 

Recently, equity in the cannabis industry has moved to the forefront of many legalization discussions around the United States. It became the most significant issue in passage of Illinois’ recent legalization bill, and equity remains central in the discussions in New Jersey and New York. It can include many facets — from additional points on license applications for minority-owned businesses to incubator programs that help businesses get off the ground.

Yet, the single biggest advancement in equity in the near term will come from an unlikely and perhaps even unremarkable source — access to regulated financial services. 

African Americans have access to far less wealth than their white counterparts. As a result, it has been difficult for black entrepreneurs to enter into the cannabis industry, which has relied on private equity to seed business opportunity. Opening banking services to the cannabis industry helps not only existing companies, but also minorities seeking access to that industry. 

For example, many of the specific equity policies that states are putting in place require banking services to be meaningful. In Illinois, the state’s new landmark law to legalize and regulate cannabis establishes a fund to provide tens of millions of dollars in grants and loans to social equity applicants. Yet it remains to be seen if the financial institutions that serve the state will be willing to provide the banking services necessary to implement that portion of the law. The SAFE Banking Act would create a “safe harbor” for banks that provide small business loans, which could help level the playing field and increase opportunities for diverse representation within the cannabis industry.

Additionally, the SAFE Banking Act would establish important reporting requirements that do not exist today. It would mandate an annual report to Congress on access to financial services for minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses and recommendations to expand access for them. It would also require the Comptroller General to study barriers to marketplace entry for minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses and report to Congress on recommendations.

Members of Congress should allow banks to provide financial services to cannabis businesses. This creates access to resources for minority and women entrepreneurs and increases the chances for success in state equity initiatives. The SAFE Act is the best next step toward establishing a more equitable cannabis industry in the U.S.


Steven Hawkins, Executive Director, Marijuana Policy Project

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Prohibition

Federal action alert: Cannabis banking bill advancing in Congress

Urge your U.S. Representative to support the SAFE Banking Act of 2019!

Today, 33 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws allowing for either medical or adult-use cannabis. An additional 14 states allow for limited medical use. But under current law, financial institutions providing banking services to legitimate and licensed cannabis businesses under state laws are subject to criminal prosecution under several federal statutes, such as "aiding and abetting" a federal crime and money laundering.

In March, Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) introduced the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (HR 1595) to address this discord between state and federal policy. This bipartisan legislation recently hit 200 cosponsors in the House, and a House floor vote is expected soon.

Please email your U.S. Representative to urge them to support the SAFE Banking Act! If your rep is already a cosponsor, you can thank them for their leadership on the issue.

This legislation would prevent federal regulators from punishing financial institutions for providing services to cannabis-related businesses operating in compliance with state laws. While some cannabis businesses have been able to find banking services, most banks are unwilling to work with them because they fear federal prosecution. As a result, many cannabis businesses are forced to operate entirely in cash.

Solving the banking issue would promote public health and safety, as access to banking would ensure broader patient access, help with business transparency and compliance, and reduce safety risks associated with running high-volume, cash-only businesses. In addition, the legislation would make it easier for financial institutions to provide loans to cannabis-related businesses, allowing those with the least access to capital — often minorities — to participate in the new legal cannabis industry.

Please contact your U.S. Representative in support of this bill TODAY, then share this link with friends and family who support sensible cannabis policies so they can do the same.

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Medical Marijuana||Tax and Regulate

California Bureau of Cannabis Control accepting public comments on proposed rules

Members of the public are invited to provide comments on California’s proposed rules for cannabis businesses. The Bureau of Cannabis Control and other agencies seek public comments as they consider a permanent set of rules — replacing those temporarily in place.

For background, including the text of the proposed rules, summaries, and the agencies’ reasoning for seeking changes, visit the state’s website. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 27.

For the most part, permanent rules would mirror those currently in place – but there are some key differences. A big improvement is a clarifying statement that adults 21 and older could receive cannabis deliveries at their own homes, statewide. This is a much-needed solution for those who live in parts of the state that have banned retail sales.

Unfortunately, the transition from illicit to legal sales has not gone as quickly as many had predicted in California, due in large part to rural communities that have refused to allow legal sales. By ensuring that deliveries are available for adults everywhere, consumers are given an option for safe, discreet, and legal sales.

Not all proposed rule changes are positive. One change would limit medical cannabis dispensaries to the sale of cannabis products and branded merchandise, preventing them from offering holistic health services such as counseling and support.

If you are a California resident, take a look at the proposed rules and be sure to send comments so they can be received before the deadline on the 27.

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